The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Family and fans rally to support Bruno
- At the hospital where Bruno was taken, staff said hundreds of goodwill messages had arrived

Frank Bruno’s family visited him at a psychiatric unit on Tuesday as thousands of messages of support poured in for the former heavyweight boxing champion.

His ex-wife Laura and their children, Nicola, 21, Rachel, 16, and Franklin, seven, visited Bruno at Goodmayes Hospital, near Ilford, Essex.

Bruno, 41, was sectioned under the Mental Health Act on Monday and was escorted by paramedics and police to the hospital from his Victorian mansion home in Stondon Massey, Essex. He is said to be suffering from depression.

The fighter’s predicament was overshadowed, however, by the uproar over a banner headline in the early editions of The Sun which read: “Bonkers Bruno locked up.” It was later changed to “Sad Bruno in mental home.”

The newspaper was flooded with complaints that its original headline stigmatised the mentally ill and was a gross insult to one of Britain’s most popular sportsmen.

The headline became a topic for discussion on the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2. Scores of people contacted the programme.

“Sad, sick and hypocritical,” complained one listener. Another said: “I hope that whoever sanctioned the headline never has the misfortune to experience mental illness.”

Marjorie Wallace, the chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, said: “It is an insult to Mr Bruno and damaging to the many thousands of people who endure mental illness to label him as ‘bonkers’ or ‘a nutter’ and having to be ‘put in a mental home’.”

Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, branded the headline “offensive and insensitive”. Liam Fox, the Tory health spokesman, said such prejudicial coverage might stop others from coming forward to receive mental health care.

Sources at The Sun said that the anger directed against the newspaper mirrored the outrage experienced after its coverage of the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy when it claimed that drunken Liverpool fans had contributed to the disaster. The editor Rebekah Wade was said to have been furious when she saw criticism of the headline on television on Monday evening and had ordered it to be changed.

To try to placate critics, the paper launched an appeal in Tuesday’s issue in aid of the charity Sane.

At the hospital where Bruno was taken for evaluation, staff said hundreds of goodwill messages had arrived. Passing cars drivers their horns in support of the former World Boxing Organisation champion.

“Frank will be happy the public are on his side,” said Kevin Lueshing, Bruno’s friend and agent. “We are getting messages all the time, wishing him well from people within boxing and people who just know Frank.”

Mr Lueshing, a former British welterweight champion, said Bruno had gone into hospital “for a bit of time to get some rest and help”. He added: “He will stay there as long as it takes to get him back on track.”

Bruno voluntarily admitted himself to a clinic for treatment early in the summer. His divorce two years ago, money worries and the suicide last year of his friend and former trainer George Francis are all said to have taken a toll on the boxer.

Earlier this year, he revealed that he wanted to return to the ring.

Sir Henry Cooper, the former European heavyweight champion, said that part of any retired boxer’s problem was adjusting to life after quitting the sport.

He told BBC Radio: “It is sad. He is a big guy and has been a character for a number of years and it is just a shame when something like this happens.

“All fighters retire and, if you have planned your retirement, you get over it. I don’t think Frank really thought it through perhaps before. If you don’t have that daily routine any more where you have to go to the gym at a certain time, train at a certain time, you miss it — all fighters do.”

“You think, what am I going to do now' It affects different people in different ways.”

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